Today Char is sharing with us her answers to:
How long does it take for a romance writer to come up with a pair of soul mates?
How much time to figure out what drives two characters, what makes them bend and move toward each other?
In the case of JESSE’S GIRL, not as long as you’d think. In fact, about a twenty-minute drive home from the grocery store did the trick, with Springfield’s voice blaring from my speakers during a Saturday afternoon ‘Eighties Rewind’ radio loop.
I never intended to write anything based on a song. Technically I guess you could say I didn’t, for I knew at the start my story wouldn’t really engage Jesse other than a memory between my romantic leads. That decision was made about five minutes into the drive home.
The narrator of the song doesn’t get the girl. Jesse’s the one who has it all. But I knew right away in my story I’d want the other guy to win. I also needed some good reasons for that to happen, otherwise my story wouldn’t have integrity. And romantic integrity is vital.
About at the halfway point home, I had my reason: Jesse passes away. Okay, that made sense to me. But a girl who’s in love with her guy doesn’t just turn to someone else after she loses him. Obviously a decent amount of time would have had to pass, before my hero could make his move. However, it still didn’t feel right, and that was because I had already mapped out my girl’s personality. It would take a lot more than being ‘single’ again, for her to reopen her heart.
Five minutes later, I had the reason: if I made Jesse into a wild child with self-destructive tendencies and portrayed his girl as long-suffering, clogged by responsibility, I could pull it off. I hit the driveway of my house knowing I’d have to make my hero lose the girl by sending him away, then bring him back so he could win her. Armed with this skeleton, I dragged ten bags of groceries into the house, head-plotted while I put everything away, then sat down and pounded through an outline. It would be over a month before I could actually sit down and start writing. Thank goodness I’d made that outline, since I suffer from head leakage. ::smile:: I’d never have remembered it all.
Of course it takes time to fine-tune all the components that bring two soul mates together, much like real life. Anyone who has experienced the phenomena for themselves knows what I mean. Some of it is instant; that first flush of awareness, the feeling that this person could mean everything, the way desire slaps you upside the head almost before names can be exchanged. The rest of it takes longer to develop.
Sometimes it coincides with love-at-first-sight. When both hit you at once, you’re pretty much a goner. I speak from experience, because both hit me at once, the night I met my husband, Don. Thirty-nine years of marriage is proof that when it hits, it hits big.
This is what I wanted for my leads, Tim and Dorothy. But because my story would involve Jesse as well, the emotions between my leads would have to percolate before I could give it free rein. That romantic integrity, again.
Twenty minutes of brain-insanity in the car, a fast and furious bout of outlining, and a year of stop/start writing netted me JESSE’S GIRL. I had a lot of fun with it. And it brought back an entire era of memories for me, too.
Here’s the blurb:
In 1965, Tim O’Malley returns to his home town of Skitter Lake, Ohio, to clear his name and get the girl: Dorothy Whitaker, the love of his life since eighth grade. Blamed for a destructive fire he didn’t set, only Tim and Dorothy know the truth; that Jesse Prescott, Tim’s best friend and Dorothy’s boyfriend, did the deed that changed an entire town. But Jesse died in that tragedy and seven years later, Skitter Lake still honors him as a hero, rather than Tim, the boy from the seedy side of town whose father was a drunk . . . and whose quick actions saved six people from perishing in that horrendous fire.
In trying to set the record straight and finally claim Dorothy as his own, Tim—and Dorothy, too—will discover that in some small towns the legend often outweighs the truth . . . and their family and friends will forever see Dorothy as “Jesse’s girl.”
Here’s an excerpt!
Now the need to lock Dorothy in a tight embrace, and never let go, overwhelmed him. He would have picked her up and carried her to his car, then driven her all the way back to Los Angeles just to get her away from a life he instinctively knew made her miserable. Tim remembered her folks. Wilma Whitaker had been a difficult woman when she was healthy and relatively happy. He couldn’t imagine how losing Dorothy’s dad would have twisted Wilma up inside.
He must have squeezed too tightly, because Dorothy let out a breathy gasp and wriggled until he loosened his arms. She stepped backward with a blush and downcast eyes. “I really do have to go, Tim.” She raised her head and all the longing he’d already been experiencing, all the need, was plain to see on her lovely face, for about half a second.
Then, her expression shuttered, she picked up her purse from the battered nightstand next to the bed where she’d laid it, and moved toward the door. Tim followed, unsure what to say even though a hundred different lines crowded his head. Stay with me. Get to know me, again. Love me, the way I never stopped loving you.
They remained locked behind his compressed lips as he escorted her to the door and wished the last seven years had never happened.
In the open doorway she formed a smile that fell short of her eyes. “I’m glad we got to spend a little time together, Tim.” She slipped her arms around his waist for a quicksilver hug, then stepped back before he could reciprocate. “Please give your folks my best when you get back home.”
Tim flicked his eyes up to hers, then over her face, prettier than ever and without a speck of makeup. Her silky, red-blonde hair, combed back in its usual ponytail, was so unlike the current style he’d seen not only in California but here in Skitter Lake. Her dress wouldn’t have been out of place at the sock hops he remembered from twelfth grade. It was almost as if Dorothy Whitaker had frozen herself in time.
And he suddenly knew he wouldn’t be leaving at the end of the week. He’d stick around and see what was what. For Dorothy, and maybe even for Jesse.
Slowly, Tim reached out and clasped her fingers, then her wrist. Before he could talk himself out of it, he yanked her into his arms, up against his body, catching the back of her head, right below her ponytail. As her lips parted to speak, protest, whatever, he covered them with a kiss that spun out of control the instant it began. He wound an arm around her waist to anchor her tightly, but she’d already thrust her hands into his hair as she kissed him back. Tim groaned into her mouth and felt it echo back to him in the whimper she uttered that throbbed in the scant space between them.
For what seemed like an eternity, he kissed her, deep, then slow, then fast, greedy, pouring years of want and desire into a single, perfect moment. If he’d ever kissed another woman like this, he couldn’t remember. He deepened the kiss even more, and felt her fingers fist reflexively in his hair. He didn’t care if she ripped it out by the handfuls, as long as she never let go.
And as if she’d somehow heard his thoughts, she stiffened, opened her fists, slapped her hands on his chest, and pushed until he released her lips. Rosy red and swollen, they quivered as she stared up at him with shock in her eyes. She pushed again, a silent demand for him to let her go. It about killed him, but he loosened his arms and stepped back.
Silently, Tim bent to pick up the purse she’d dropped, and gave it to her. As her fingers closed over the pale yellow leather, she whispered, “Why?”
He managed—barely—to keep his hands to himself as he replied, “Because I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying. And when I do leave, Dorothy, you’ll be coming with me.”
Char Chaffin writes mainstream and contemporary romance filled with family, rich characters and engaging plots. For her, it all comes back to the love.
From crafting Victorian-style poetry to writing short stories and novellas, Char finally settled on romance novels as her true passion. Over the years she worked a variety of jobs, from farm hand to costume designer to fiscal accountant, before deciding a writing career was her desired focus.
In addition to writing, Char is also an Acquisitions Editor for Soul Mate Publishing.
A displaced Alaskan, Char currently divides her time between Fairbanks, Alaska and an Upstate NY, sixty-acre farm with husband Don. Their extended family is scattered all over the Lower Forty-Eight and Alaska.
When she’s not pounding away at her keyboard, sneaking away to the Last Frontier or burying her nose in books and her beloved Kindle, she edits manuscripts and helps Don maintain their farm.